Still no triple double this season for Rajon Rondo, who has missed out on his first by not having a rebound or two more for a third time this NBA season. It doesn’t matter. Rondo might not be able to hit open jumpers if his life depended on it, but he’s the main reason the Boston Celtics will remain in contention in the East.
Where does he rank among the all-time great? Probably too soon to tell, with probably a decade more of basketball left for him to play. For now, Rondo is settling for being the best player on the Boston Celtics, a team fighting gravity, age and time, among other roster faults they have. With 15 points, 9 rebounds and 16 assists, Rondo didn’t just have an “almost” triple double yet again, but he tied his name with the NBA’s all-time assist leader; He had 10+ assists for the 37th consecutive time, just like John Stockton did a long time ago.
It’s incredible to see a player who can think so far when he’s driving to the basket, looking for three and four passing options and almost every time making the right decision by finding the open man look like a kid who hardly played basketball in his life in some half court situations, when the lane is clogged and he’s forced to create his own shot from the outside.
As long as Rondo keeps that obstacle in his way, you can’t put him on the same page as Chris Paul or a healthy Derrick Rose. But everything’s fixable, especially for such a talented player, who keeps shooting a pathetic 61.3% from the line, only getting there a disappointing 2.4 times a game.
What Rondo is doing better than anyone at the moment is making those around him better. Paul Pierce finished with 23 points and Kevin Garnett led the way with 24 as the Celtics overcame the Orlando Magic to win 116-110, improving to 8-6 this season; The only reason these two players, more limited every time and every season they step on the court, are doing so well this season is Rondo.
Pierce is averaging 20.1 points per game, Garnett is 15.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, more dependent on Rondo’s ability to slice through defenses than Pierce. Age, which was defied by Garnett last season, seems to be having quite a toll and burden on the big man this season.
One thing that is worrying the Celtics this season is their changing identity, or for lack of a different phrase and word: They suck on defense. How bad? For a team that has been consistently among the top 5 defensive teams in the NBA since the arrival of Kevin Garnett, the Celtics are allowing 100.1 points per game so far, ranked 23 in the league, with teams shooting 46.3% against them. Only the Cavs, Blazers and Suns are softer on defense.
For a team as proud, experienced and yes, old, as the Celtics, that’s a serious problem, especially if Rivers doesn’t find a way to fix it as the season progresses. Maybe changing the personnel in the starting lineup next to Garnett. For now, despite Rajon Rondo’s exceptional play and passing, bad defending is keeping the Celtics from being considered a serious threat in the Eastern conference.